Friday, December 27, 2013

Bringing 2013 to a Close

As we prepare for 2014, we'd like to share yet another creative card with you.  It reads, "You all deserve a BIG hand for all your diligent work in 2013!"  This is true for all of our staff and volunteer drivers. Thanks for making 2013 such a positive, monumental year!  We (silently) applaud you for your helpful service and lasting positive impact.
 

Friday, December 20, 2013

Happy holidays!

In this cold and dark time of year, our office is made much brighter by the many cards we've received from thoughtful clients and volunteers of our programs! Whether cute, clever, fun, and/or sentimental, they certainly bring us much joy.

Whomever you are and whatever holidays you celebrate, we at Senior Services' Transportation Program wish you this same uplifting good cheer-- now and always!

Friday, December 13, 2013

High Spirits at Annual Volunteer Appreciation Luncheon

Our Volunteer Appreciation Luncheon is often described as an annual highlight for the many volunteers, staff, and community supporters who attend it.   Although the venue, meal options, remarks, and awards may change, the gathering never fails to provide a fun and memorable way for us to remind our volunteer drivers of how grateful we are for their compassionate service.
The audience was captivated by the  tributes of the video.

Mary S. was the lucky recipient of a lovely
gift basket from QFC.
The 2013 Volunteer Appreciation Luncheon took place at the Bellevue Red Lion Hotel and offered much excitement.  In addition to the many raffle prizes, guests were also treated to a special surprise: a video montage of heartfelt messages from many local celebrities and politicians.  Cindy Zwart, Director of Senior Services’ Transportation Program, explained, “This year, the Transportation Program staff decided to do something a little different.  We enlisted the help of others here in King County who also recognize your invaluable contribution to our program and our agency and the community as a whole--people who were willing to take time from their busy schedules because they wanted to say thank you for the huge impact you have on the lives of all the seniors and people with disabilities that you touch through your gift of mobility.”  The video was very entertaining and touching.
Terry M. was the lucky driver
 who won a full set of new
Firestone Tires.
After the event had concluded, one volunteer wrote the following in an email: “I commend you and your staff for a very fine luncheon yesterday…   An observation that came to me is that this is a group of ‘gentle people,’ which the world needs a lot more of. The Seattle area is blessed with these and its many other volunteers.” 

These are very fitting words.  The Volunteer Transportation and Hyde Shuttle programs are, indeed, blessed to have so many ‘gentle people’ involved in them, and the giving, jovial spirit of our volunteers was certainly felt at the luncheon!

 


These volunteers were honored for their 5 years of service.
This impressive group was recognized for its 10 years of service.

Thanks to the many wonderful donations,
many volunteers were bestowed with beautiful prizes.
We’d like to thank the following businesses who helped make the successful event possible: AMTRAK; Seattle Symphony; Seattle Art Museum; Vince’s Enterprises, Inc.; Olympic Music Festival; Brown Bear Car Wash; Office Depot; Ivar’s/Kidd Valley; Highline Medical Center; QFC-- Quality Food Centers; Overlake Hospital; Washington Dental Service Foundation; Virginia Mason Medical Center; Seattle Chocolates; Donald & Teresa Benedict; Underground Tours/Bill Speidel Enterprises Inc.; Northwest Trek Wildlife Park; Unico Properties/Exchange Building; Ride the Ducks of Seattle; Walgreen Seattle North District Office; Firestone Tire & Service Centers; Oberto Sausage Company; Tim’s Cascade Snacks; Trident Seafoods Corporation; Museum of Flight; and Regence.   Their support ensured that our luncheon was truly an unforgettable occasion our invaluable volunteers.
Friday, December 6, 2013

Exit Survey Affirmations

It’s always difficult to say good-bye to one of our precious volunteers.  Yet, when life circumstances change and prevent a person from driving for the Volunteer Transportation program any longer, we understand.   We also collect exit reports from these outgoing volunteers to gain insight into their experiences with our program.  This week’s post comes directly from these surveys.

It has been quite heartening to peruse our most recent batch of exiting volunteer feedback.  You will note that many responses to questions echo others, and they all affirm the value of our work.  In addition, they offer many kudos for our hardworking schedulers!  Here are some of the statements from our volunteers:

What did you enjoy most?
  • Helping in a way that is really appreciated and needed.  I found the information given to me before every ride was so helpful.
  • Meeting the seniors and interacting with them.  Different experiences and stories every week.  Feeling a purpose beyond myself while I was in between jobs.
  • Meeting nice people and feeling the satisfaction of helping others.
  • Being able to help with transportation for people who needed it and chatting with the clients.
  • The knowledge that I was helping members of my community I otherwise would not have met.
  • Meeting the clients and discovering mutual associations.
  • I really enjoyed visiting with the clients.  They were always so nice and appreciated the rides very much.  It was interesting to hear about their lives.
Is there any other comment you’d like to share with us?
  • Thanks you so much for everything.   To Amy: Keep up the great work!
  • I think you’re doing such an excellent job!
  • Great program!  … Donald is a pleasure to work with.  Keep up all the great work you do. 
  • I really enjoyed working with everyone at Volunteer Transportation and the many coordinators over time.
  • Great feedback from the dispatcher, Donald.  He was always available to help in any untoward situation.  A pleasure to work with.
  • Can recommend SST to anybody who wants to volunteer.  It is very rewarding and fun.
  • I enjoyed the experience very much, working with the staff and clients.
  • It was a pleasure working with your dedicated staff.  I miss Donald’s cheery conversations.  Thank you all so much for organizing and keeping this vital services going for our needy seniors.
  • This experience with Senior Services has been so rewarding and uplifting!  We thank you all for providing such a super environment for us to help others!
  • Time has passed so swiftly since my orientation with Cindy fourteen years ago.  The void was filled since retirement and provided fulfillment.  We will miss you all and your dedication to a worthwhile endeavor.
  • Everyone we dealt with at Senior Services was especially kind and caring.  Just the kind of personalities who work well with our clients!
  • Donald is not only a fantastic coordinator but an amazing person.  His dedication and constant understanding and patience made Senior Services a great place to volunteer for.  Thank you!
  • It has been such a pleasure all these years of talking with different schedulers beginning with Mary Ann way back in the 90’s and ending now with Amy.  They have a great sense of humor and they all do such a great job.
As we fill the shoes of volunteers who have transitioned on to new phases of their lives, we hope that our new drivers find their work with the Volunteer Transportation program to be just as fulfilling, enjoyable, and rewarding.
Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Thanksgiving Reflection

As we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving, I am reminded of Frederick Keonig’s statement:
“Happiness doesn't come as a result of getting something we don't have, but rather of recognizing and appreciating what we do have.”

We here at Senior Services’ Transportation Program have a lot to recognize and appreciate: our fleet of helpful volunteers; our hardworking staff; our inspiring clients; and the values of community, care, and compassion that bring our work to life!  We are grateful for this collective, supportive network and its powerful impact on everyone involved. 

Happy Thanksgiving!
Friday, November 22, 2013

Talk Time: Volunteer Drivers Play Multiple Roles, Including English Instructors

Raisa, who will turn 80 in December, 
 is very studious with her English textbooks.
When Raisa Nikitina’s two adult sons first brought her to visit the USA in the 1990’s, she marveled at everything.  She found the scenery to be incredibly beautiful; she was amazed by all of the choices; and everything was new to her.   She made several subsequent visits and soon filled multiple photo albums chronicling her experiences-- shots of her at the Pike Place Market, on a ferry ride in the Puget Sound, taking a tour at the Washington State Capitol Building in Olympia, and (her favorite memory) expressing complete shock as a restaurant staff unexpectedly serenaded her son on his birthday.  It all was so novel and different from her life in Russia.

Fast forward to the present day, and Raisa is an American citizen.  Her sons ultimately persuaded her to make the big move to be closer to them and her grandchildren, and Raisa passed the citizenship exam in January of this year.  She still has the study guides that she used to learn about all of our country’s wars, which states have borders with Mexico and Canada, which oceans are on the East of the country, and all sorts of information she had not previously known.  She studied hard to achieve this goal; she was the best student in her preparation class.

Raisa is now working on another challenge: mastering the English language.  She has many English textbooks that she brought with her from Russia, but she acknowledges that the best way to learn a language is to practice.  And practice. And practice.  To her amazement, this additional practice was made possible thanks to trips to the dentist.

When Raisa was granted a “Women in Need” grant for extensive dental work, she discovered that the best dentist to meet her needs was in Bothell—a far distance from her residence in Renton.  She was soon connected with the Volunteer Transportation program to make these trips possible, and the long, regular rides allow for hands-on English lessons.

Raisa lists many of her volunteer drivers by name—Tom, Chelley, Steph—as well as the VT South King County Coordinator, Jacob.  “I love them!” she exclaims.  They help her with her pronunciation; they provide her with feedback about her grammar and word choice; they explain why things are the way they are; they work very hard to assist her; and they notice her progress.

Raisa has lots to say about her volunteer drivers/English tutors: “They are wonderful.   I am touched by their generosity and patience.  They are never late.  They have very clean cars.  They are always smiling and always wanting to help.”

Raisa reports that her sons are surprised at how well she has adapted to her new life in America.  She says that this is due, in part, to the many resources that have helped her with the transition-- including the Volunteer Transportation program.  Raisa has grown accustomed to her many new realities, but she is still in awe of the kindness and friendliness of the many Americans she has met since first moving to Renton in 2006. She is happy with her life as a proud American citizen.
Friday, November 15, 2013

Hyde Shuttles Keep Student on the Go

(In spite of being a part of Senior Services, our Hyde Shuttles serve many folks who are not seniors!   The service is available to people with disabilities as well.  This is one such story).

Olivia  can be found on the Highline
Community College campus Monday through
Friday.

Olivia Williams, a regular Hyde Shuttle rider, is going places.  At 17, she already attends Highline Community College fulltime (thanks to the Running Start program) and has both short-term and long-term goals.  In the immediate future, she’d like to maintain a high GPA; achieve respectable scores on the SAT’s; and improve her strength, health, and mobility.  In the more distant future, she’d like to pursue her interest in the sciences and passion for helping others by becoming a pharmacist. 

Olivia is clearly ambitious but describes herself as: laid back, introverted, and independent.  She also acknowledges that various facets of her character have been formed by the fact that she has a disability.  She explains, “I have cerebral palsy.  I was born three months premature.  A lung collapsed-- causing my brain to hemorrhage, which affected the part of my brain that controls my movements.” 

Olivia reports that she has never felt bad about suffering from cerebral palsy because it is the only reality she has ever known, and she knows that a lot of people are in a far worse condition than she is.  Cerebral palsy has forced her to break free from her naturally shy shell to advocate for herself.  “I can’t be a wallflower,” she says.  It has also caused her to be more driven.  “I have to prove to people I can do this,” she adds.  In addition, she admits that having cerebral palsy has also caused her to be more cautious.  She recognizes that she is more vulnerable than others and needs to adapt her lifestyle accordingly. 

This is where the Hyde Shuttle comes into play.  Olivia did not feel comfortable taking the city buses to her daily classes at Highline Community College, and the stops were an unmanageable distance from her home.  Therefore, she was incredibly pleased when she discovered the Hyde Shuttles

Olivia found the smaller-scale shuttles to be a good fit for her needs and preferences.  She labels them as very convenient and expresses relief that they are always on time.  She also says, “The volunteer drivers are really nice, interesting, welcoming, and friendly.   You can tell that they really want to be there.”   She is very grateful for the service and the personalized attention she receives.  She now rides the shuttle five days per week.

The Hyde Shuttles will not provide Olivia with her transportation forever.  In addition to completing her AA, obtaining her bachelor’s degree, and attending pharmacy school, she has another plan: acquiring her driver’s license.  But, as she continues on her life journey, the shuttles (and their helpful volunteer drivers) are there to support her in her efforts to dream big and travel far. 
Friday, November 8, 2013

Volunteering, Your Favorite Medicine

This week's post is in honor of our over 600 incredible volunteers who drive their own vehicles and agency vans to transport isolated, frail, low-income King County elders to life-sustaining and life-enriching activities.  It is a Huffington Post article entitled "Why Volunteering Is So Good For Your Health."  Just another way that lives are improved by our programs!

Why Volunteering is So Good for Your Health
By Hilary Young

It's one of the first lessons we learn as children -- "sharing means caring." We might not understand why we have to share at first, especially when there are younger siblings involved, but as we grow into adulthood, sharing becomes an essential part of your social and career success.

So does it come as a surprise to learn that research now proves that sharing your time with others for a good cause can improve your overall happiness and mental well-being? It turns out that Baby Boomers give more total dollars to charities than any other generation. According to Forbes, Boomers are responsible for 34 percent of all charitable donations, which amounts to nearly $61.9 billion every year.

And according to the data collected by Volunteering In America, Boomers spent about 3.6 million hours volunteering for organizations or causes they are passionate about.

These generous Boomers seem to have tapped into volunteerism at an opportune time; two new studies have recently confirmed that there are significant health benefits to giving back.
UnitedHealth Group commissioned a national survey of 3,351 adults and found that the overwhelming majority of participants reported feeling mentally and physically healthier after a volunteer experience.
  • 76 percent of people who volunteered in the last twelve months said that volunteering has made them feel healthier
  • 94 percent of people who volunteered in the last twelve months said that volunteering improved their mood
  • 78 percent of them said that volunteering lowered their stress levels
  • 96 percent reported that volunteering enriched their sense of purpose in life
  • 80 percent of them feel like they have control over their health
  • About a quarter of them reported that their volunteer work has helped them manage a chronic illness by keeping them active and taking their minds off of their own problems
  • Volunteers have better personal scores than non-volunteers on nine well-established measures of emotional wellbeing including personal independence, capacity for rich interpersonal relationships and overall satisfaction with life.
  • Volunteering also improved their mood and self-esteem
For those of us who have spent time giving back to the community or helping further a cause we believe in, you might recognize many of the above findings to be correct. It doesn't seem far-fetched to think that helping others can provide you with a sense of connection, pride, and perspective. But did you know that it can also help you live longer?

Researchers at the University of Exeter Medical School in the south of England analyzed data from 40 published studies and found evidence that volunteers had a 20 percent lower risk of death than their peers who do not volunteer. The study also found that volunteers had lower levels of depression, increased life satisfaction and enhanced well-being.
Friday, November 1, 2013

Headlines

Our huge file of newspaper clippings, many now yellow and faded with age,
provides for a fun walk down memory lane.
Throughout the years, the Volunteer Transportation program has often been featured in the local media.  Our office has compiled a large anthology of newspaper clippings, and each article has a slightly different spin on the value of Volunteer Transportation.
Here are some of the standout headlines:
  • Working as a volunteer driver has put this stroke patient on a less bumpy road
  • Just when they need to see the doctor the most, senior citizens often lose their ability to get there
  • Transportation is one of the top problems facing King County Seniors; there’s just not enough to go around
  • Have driver, will travel
  • Volunteers make time for those who need it
  • A Helping Hand—at the Steering Wheel—for Seniors
  • It’s a rewarding “round trip” when volunteers take seniors for a ride
However it’s stated, one fact is consistently clear: Volunteer drivers have a profound positive impact on the lives of the seniors they transport, and they gain as much from the experience as their passengers.  The archived stories also make it very evident that we could always use more volunteer drivers-- no matter what month or year it is.  We continue to receive lots of support from local media outlets, adding to the growing chronicled history of our program.
Friday, October 25, 2013

Active Volunteer Campaign


It’s no secret that we are in great need of new Hyde Shuttle volunteer drivers in Burien and Des Moines/Normandy Park (and could use additional volunteer divers in Shoreline as well).  I’m hesitant to use the term “crisis,” but the situation is certainly far from ideal.  There are often times during which the shuttles are unable to operate because of holes in the weekly driver schedules-- forcing seniors and folks with disabilities to scramble to find other ways to get to their necessary errands and outings.
 
But we’re working very hard to turn this gloomy state of affairs around!  We recently kicked off our Active Volunteer Campaign to reach new potential volunteers looking for an enjoyable and meaningful way to spend their time.  This recruitment venture highlights the many diverse interests and hobbies of our volunteers.  Brady from Des Moines kindly agreed to step in as our model volunteer driver, and the flyers feature Brady taking part in a variety of activities—from playing tennis, to drinking lattes, to playing Frisbee, to playing his guitar, to riding his motorcycle.  (Residents of Burien, Des Moines, Normandy Park, and Shoreline, please look out for them around town!). 

The text of the flyers states the following: “Our volunteer drivers live active, full lives, and the Hyde Shuttles ensure that seniors and folks with disabilities can live active lives as well.  Whatever your interests, hobbies, or passions, you can make a difference.  Come join Brady and our team of valuable and compassionate Hyde Shuttle volunteers to give back to the Burien community!  It will become your new favorite pastime.”
 
May this message reach the right people; may we soon be blessed with an overabundance of volunteer Hyde Shuttle drivers ready to add a new helpful, worthwhile diversion to their busy schedules!
Friday, October 18, 2013

Fun and Games

A Reflection by Hilary
             
We here at Senior Services’ Transportation Program take our jobs very seriously, but there’s a lighter side to our work as well.   One of my recent enjoyable experiences took place as I braved a full day of heavy rain to represent our organization at the Spokes for Folks festivities in Seattle.

People of all ages did not mind getting wet as they stopped by my booth to learn more about our transportation programs and the myriad of other Senior Services programs, as well as our need for more volunteer drivers.  A few current clients of Volunteer Transportation and the Hyde Shuttles stopped by to express their appreciation for these services, and other visitors entered my tent out of pure curiosity.  In addition, our “Pin the Key on the Ignition” game was a huge success.

My time is often controlled by the not-so-fun reality that we are short volunteer drivers, but I always value these rare outreach opportunities.  Rain or shine, I love interacting with our community and talking about the good work that we do!
Friday, October 4, 2013

Client Profile: Mary Lou B.

This week’s post features another testimonial from a 77-year-old woman who knows are programs well.  Here is what she recently shared with us:

“I use both the Hyde Shuttle and Volunteer Transportation programs.  I don’t know what I’d do without these services.  I used to drive everywhere as a social worker caring for mentally ill veterans, but you never know what shocks life has in store for you.  I got very sick a few years ago.  Everyone thought I was going to die.  After spending 7 months in the hospital, I remarkably survived.  Even the doctors were shocked when I came out of it alive.  However, I was no longer able to work or drive.  I now depend on these forms of transportation and can’t say enough good about them.
The drivers are delightful and have made me feel so much better about losing my independence…  They are absolutely wonderful!”

*Mary Lou B., regular Hyde Shuttle and Volunteer Transportation client

Her story echoes that of many other clients who unexpectedly have to stop driving after overcoming seemingly impossible obstacles.  As always, we are humbled and inspired as we learn the stories of Mary Lou and others like her who have beat the odds and triumphed in the face of adversity.
Friday, September 27, 2013

Donation Messages

We never require anyone to pay for our valuable transportation services.  However, clients are able to send in donations to give back to our programs, and they often include thoughtful messages of appreciation to accompany their financial contributions.  Here is one such note that we received from 90-year-old Alma:

It reads, “Thank you so much for this service.  I am 90, still drive locally here in Renton.  Can get to my Primary Care Dr.  But cannot drive on Highways to get to Seattle or Belleview.  It is good to know that I have help to get there.  The drivers are so helpful.  Thank you.  Thank you.  Alma.  Wish this could be more.”
 
We are very grateful for all of letters, donations, and calls we receive in support of our work.  They serve as constant reminders of why we're here!
Friday, September 20, 2013

Small World Story

Clients and volunteers of the Volunteer Transportation program never know what connections they’ll discover through their conversations.  Here is one such small world story that was shared with us by Barbara H., volunteer driver:

“Today I picked up a lady I had not given a ride to before, and she looked familiar.  I asked her if she had worked at the University of Washington (where I had worked) and she had.  Turns out, I knew her when she was the secretary to the Chairman of the Department of Pediatrics on the 3rd floor of the RR wing of Health Sciences at the same time I was secretary to the Head of the Division of Neonatology in the same department, located on the 4th floor.  She was a bit more wrinkled but otherwise by golly she was the same!  She remembered me and we reminisced and caught up on all the gossip that we were aware of, even though it had been almost 25 years since we had seen each other!  Made for a very pleasant ride for both of us!”

It’s amazing how many shared experiences, crossed paths, or commonalities can be uncovered in a short trip to the doctor’s!
Friday, September 13, 2013

Gateway Trainings



Because of their unique role, our volunteer drivers have the tremendous potential to serve as bridges—or gateways—connecting seniors to other needed services.   But it can be overwhelming or confusing to determine what to do or where to turn when a senior is in need.  Therefore, we have collaborated with Senior Services’ Information and Assistance (I & A) program to offer three Gateway Trainings for our volunteers.   These seminars are intended to support participants in deciding why, how, and when to make referrals to the appropriate contact, as well as what typically happens once a referral has been made. 

Linda Phillips, I & A Advocate, conducted our first Gateway Training on September 10 in Shoreline.   She described some of the typical signs demonstrating that a senior is in need of additional assistance (including but not limited to):
Linda provides volunteer drivers with various case studies.
  • Unkempt appearance
  • Strong odors on person and/or in home
  • Depression, confusion, forgetfulness
  • Substance abuse
  • Caregiver stress
  • Financial and social problems
  • Physical losses
  • Yard and/or pets neglected
  • Home needs repair
  • Recent change in behavior.
If one of these red flags is observed, Linda recommended that volunteer drivers share their concerns with their Volunteer Coordinator/Scheduler, or the I & A program can be contacted directly at: 206-448-3110, 1-888-435-3377, or info@seniorservices.org.  She further explained how I & A advocates may make additional referrals/reports (e.g.:  to the Geriatric Regional Assessment Team or Adult Protective Services) if needed.  Overall, the hour-long training was very informative, and volunteer drivers received answers to many of their questions.

If you were unable to attend the Shoreline gathering, do not worry! We will host two more: one on Tuesday, September 24, at the Des MoinesSenior Activity Center @ 3:00PM and the other on Tuesday, October, 15, at the North Bellevue Community Center @ 3:00PM.  Please RSVP to Hilary at hilaryc@seniorservices.org if you'd like to come.  Additionally, the video embedded at the top of this post (produced by St. Luke’s Eldercare Services) provides similar information.
It is our hope that we can all work together to gently direct seniors and their family members to curative services, fostering improved quality of life for this vulnerable population.
Friday, September 6, 2013

Volunteers Support Volunteer

Nancy R., an 83-year-old Bellevue resident, used to volunteer regularly in the Radiation/Oncology Department at the Overlake Hospital until the unfortunate day that she tore her rotator cuff.  She consulted with her doctor, who determined she would benefit from weekly physical therapy appointments.  But as a Medicare patient, her options were limited to facilities in either Issaquah or Kirkland-- none in Bellevue.  She was unable to drive herself to either location or pay for cabs, so her doctor recommended Senior Services’ Volunteer Transportation to assist her.

Nancy has been incredibly happy with her VT experience* (*SEE HER LETTER BELOW) and has been able to dramatically improve her health over the past few months. She states, “Both the Doctor and the Physical Therapist are very pleased with my progress. Now that my health is improving, I can move on with my life.”  Nancy has recently resumed volunteering again at Overlake.

Just as Senior Services’ Volunteer Transportation has helped Nancy get to her medical appointments, Nancy has been adamant about promoting our program to family, neighbors, and friends.  She has even copied her own brochure and has given the information to her doctors in hopes that Volunteer Transportation can assist others.  Nancy has direct experience with the benefits of Volunteer Transportation, and she knows how vital this program can be for others to remain strong and independent. 

We wanted to share Nancy’s exact words with you, so here is the typed letter she sent to our office:

To: Senior Services
Re: The Volunteer Transportation Services


This is a tremendous organization, and it has been a real BLESSING for me!  Without it, I would not have been able to take the Physical Therapy I needed when and where my Doctor wanted me to take it.  Every one of your drivers that I met was most helpful, friendly and wonderful.  I was greeted with a smile, asked if I need help, and talked to as if I were an old friend.  All these things in a time of discomfort and maybe a little stress were an enormous gift!  I knew when I called I would get a time if it was available and if not, Amy would work with me for the next best option.  Usually, my contact was Amy, but I also talked with Donald and Jacob—all gracious and working to help me.

I have recommended the program to other people, and given copies of your brochure to 3 Doctors’ offices. 

I think you can tell that I have no complaints!  Just a sincere and heartfelt THANK YOU!

Sincerely,
Nancy Reynolds


It’s always affirming to receive such positive feedback from the clients we serve, and we appreciate Nancy’s efforts to spread the word about our program to others in need.  It also brings us much satisfaction to know that our program helped her get back to the volunteer commitments, routines, and activities that support her overall wellbeing.   Keep up the good work, Nancy!
Friday, August 30, 2013

Honorable Volunteers Needed for Honored Program!

 
 
We are pleased to report that Cindy Zwart, Director of Senior Services’ Transportation Program, recently received a unique recognition from the Washington State Association of Senior Centers.   Cindy was completely unaware of the fact that the group had fabricated a dinner meeting to present her with a Service Recognition Award—using this guise to recognize her work with the Hyde Shuttles.  It was a great surprise when the true purpose of the gathering was revealed as she was presented with a plaque that reads, “For your dedication, service, and contribution in meeting the needs of seniors and disabled in multiple communities.” 

Cindy was humbled by this award but acknowledges that it speaks to the value of the Hyde Shuttles.  Many local seniors and people with disabilities rely on this safe and reliable transportation service for needed socialization, errands, and life sustaining/enriching activities.   The Washington State Association of Senior Centers appreciates the profound impact the Hyde Shuttles have had in communities throughout King County. 

You have the opportunity to be a part of this award-winning program!  Caring and reliable volunteers are urgently needed to drive agency vans in Burien and Des Moines/Normandy Park.  We offer flexible hours and free training in defensive driving and passenger assistance.  You do not need a special driver’s license.   Spread the word!  Help us ensure that our valuable program can continue to meet the transportation needs of seniors and disabled folks in these communities.  Contact Hilary at hilaryc@seniorservices.org to find out more or get started.   No surprises here—Hyde Shuttles volunteer drivers make a world of difference!!
Friday, August 23, 2013

Word Power

When entered into the Wordle program, statements of our clients and volunteers produced the following word cloud:

This collage captures many important themes of our program.  With the help of this visual tool, it just takes a moment to see/read what we're all about!
Friday, August 16, 2013

Letting Go

It's never easy to turn in one's keys.
Without a doubt, losing the ability to drive is an incredibly difficult process.  The National Caregivers Library explains that the majority of older adults experience emotional, mobility, monetary, psychological, and social loss as they make the transition from a driving to non-driving lifestyle.  The Caregivers Library also reports that age-related changes associated with driving often occur in a predictable sequence over a number of years and cause a gradual narrowing the individual’s social world. This progression includes the following steps:
  1. Physical and mental changes
  2. Age-related functional declines or skill loss lead to less driving
  3. Less driving leads to less overall mobility
  4. Less overall mobility leads to increased isolation and other quality of life changes
Furthermore, as these changes take place, seniors often feel guilty about asking friends and family for transportation.  They dislike feeling like a “burden” as they concurrently struggle with their decreased independence and socialization.

We understand that our program is not the be-all/end-all solution to the challenges faced by seniors adjusting to their new limitations.  However, our volunteers offer support and empathy to older adults who’ve found themselves in this frustrating situation. 

Hyde Shuttle and Volunteer Transportation client Shelby D. submitted a note that explains how the programs have impacted her life: “…I truly appreciate your efforts to make the lives of seniors a little less stressful…You provide a much needed services for those of us who have an impairment of some sort that limits our ability to accomplish something as important as medical care. I compliment your drivers on being some of the nicest and kindest people I have met in many years. They are reliable, cheerful, and, most of all, patient. The drivers and office staff go out of their way to make my life a little more pleasant.”

Shelby and other clients will never have all of their problems solved through our transportation programs alone.  Yet, in the context of so many difficult transitions and adjustments, we are happy to improve the safety and independence of non-driving King County seniors-- as well as make their lives just a “little more pleasant.”
Friday, August 9, 2013

A Powerful Pair: Bill G. and Sophie F.

There are many extraordinary individuals involved in the Volunteer Transportation program, and this story began as an attempt to profile two such commendable people: Bill Goodfellow (volunteer driver) and Sophie Friedman (frequent client).  However, it soon became clear that the most meaningful and significant messages would not be found in separate articles detailing their unique personal histories or contributions to the world at large.  Rather, the true inspirational lessons can be learned when Bill and Sophie are together.  After all, our drivers and clients do not exist in isolation; the value of our program comes from the interactions that take place between them.  Bill and Sophie are incredible people each worthy of recognition in his/her own right, but there is great poignancy in their time alongside one another.  Their special connection illustrates the compelling power of driver-client pairs.
Bill gently escorts Sophie to the door.

Bill is well-known around the Volunteer Transportation office because of his immaculate mileage sheets.  His clear printing and precision undoubtedly stem from his years as an architect, and his systematic way of thinking also translates to the way in which he carefully calculates the pick-up time for each of the 3-4 rides he takes on per week.  He has even created his own complex form that he uses to compute ride times/distances and record information about clients.  He explains, “It’s complicated in a way that I understand complications.”

Bill describes Sophie as “96 going on 60… or maybe even 16!”  She has an adventurous spirit and proclaims, “I love things I’ve never tried before!”   Her lifelong commitment to exploring new frontiers is apparent in the tales she tells about taking her three sons camping every summer for two weeks at a time (while her husband stayed at home) or taking her first nausea-inducing flight from New Jersey to Boston (with a stop in Hartford for refueling) on a propeller plane in 1935.  It must also be noted that Sophie made arrangements for this interview through email.  At 96-years-old, Sophie fully embraces new technology.

Sophie and Bill share a lot in common.  They both enjoy classical music; they both have a grandson named Gus; and they both appreciate good food and social occasions.  But perhaps their most unmistakable similarity is that they both have amazing stories.  When they are together, stories abound.   The time that Bill has spent driving Sophie to numerous medical appointments has allowed them to get to know one another so well that they can prompt each other to talk about their lives (“Tell her about your wife’s orchids”), and they can even finish each other’s stories.  The afternoon passes quickly as they talk about wide-ranging personal and historic topics, and they are surprised to discover that several hours have already passed.   Bill must quickly rush off as he discovers that he will be late to another commitment.

Sophie moved to Seattle from New Jersey (via Florida) two years ago, and she says, “Bill is the best thing that has happened to me in Seattle.”  Bill and his wife, Dee, have been a great source of support for Sophie, and it is evident that Bill is always looking out for her with a watchful and protective eye.  Bill and Sophie are certainly a dynamic duo, and much can be learned from this driver/client partnership filled with mutual respect and admiration.
Friday, August 2, 2013

Catch Phrase

Words can be powerful, persuasive tools.  Because our program faces the grim reality that we never have enough volunteer drivers to meet the need of our community, we are constantly trying to come up with the right words to attract new volunteers.  Here are some of our creative efforts to craft catchy slogans for the Volunteer Transportation and Hyde Shuttle programs:
  • Reach out and drive someone.
  • The road will never be the same again.
  • Sheer driving pleasure.
  • The ultimate driving experience.
  • We’ll put you in the driver’s seat.
  • ‘Driven’ with compassion.
  • The drive of your life.
  • We are driving excitement. 
  • Drive Your Dreams.
  • Driving is believing.
  • Drive up.  Dream up.
  • Drivers and passengers will never be the same.
  • You have a ‘license’ to make a difference.
  • Keep our wheels spinning.
  • Imagine the stories you’ll hear.
  • Imagine the places you’ll go.
  • Our volunteers accumulate "miles and miles" of positive impact.
  • Help us leave no senior behind.
  • Let’s get seniors out and about.
  • Take a turn in the right direction—become a volunteer driver today.
  • Rides change lives.
  • Let the journey begin.
Do you have any good ideas?  If so, please email them to me at hilaryc@seniorservices.org.  To end with a tagline, let’s “drive the distance” to ensure that more caring volunteer drivers are making a difference in the lives of King County seniors!
Friday, July 26, 2013

Smart Thinking: Volunteer Ingenuity

Calvin Wang is a standout, multi-faceted volunteer.
Calvin Wang has been a Volunteer Transportation driver since January 2009, and he never heads out for a ride without a Sudoku book in his front pocket.  Calvin loves the challenge of this 9 x 9 number puzzle, and he finds it to be a great way to pass the time as he waits for VT clients in doctor’s offices, dental clinics, or hospitals.  He explains, “It teaches you how to use your thinking cap.  It’s all about logic.”

Logic is one of Calvin’s greatest strengths.  He worked as an engineer for many years, which helped him to develop solid problem-solving and analytical skills.  He adds, “Perhaps my training as an engineer also fostered a tendency to be more observant.”  These traits are essential as Calvin efficiently solves his Sudoku number puzzles, but they’ve also added a new dimension of helpfulness to his interactions with others.  Calvin is evidence of the fact that a volunteer driver always provides much more than just a ride.

Once, he drove a woman who was very unsteady with her cane.  He noticed that she wobbled and looked uneasy as she moved. Ever the problem-solver, he introduced the concept of the quad cane to her.  A quad cane, he explained, is a four-footed cane that offers four points of contact with the ground instead of just one.  It provides much more support and stability than traditional canes.  He proposed to the client that she might benefit from such a device.  Although Calvin just planted the seed that such a switch could be advantageous, he was happy to see the same frail client using a four-pronged cane during his next ride with her.  She had taken his advice and reported a newfound sense of steadiness and ease as she walked.

On several other occasions, Calvin observed a problem with clients using walkers.  As they attempted to go through doorways (especially those in their homes), they had to awkwardly turn their walkers sideways because they were just a tad bit too wide to fit.  This made simple tasks, like getting to the bathroom, challenging.  He soon discovered that the front wheels on walkers are traditionally on the apparatus’s outside poles.  They can be easily removed with a push/pull button and switched to the inside poles, taking away about 1.5 inches from the total width.  With this quick fix, clients are able to go in and out of doorways without any trouble.  Calvin believes he has completed this outside-to-inside wheel swap on about four walkers, and each person has been very grateful for his assistance.
 
Calvin is humble about the impact he has had as a volunteer driver.  He says, “I just do whatever I can to help out.”  He is empathetic and caring as he works with older adults, yet he uses his active mind and critical eye in his volunteer work as well.  Calvin enjoys working with the numbers, lines, and grids that fill the pages of his Sudoku books, but his interactions with Volunteer Transportation clients provide for a more dynamic, personable, meaningful, and memorable way to channel his well-tuned thinking cap.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Client Profile: Laurabelle M.

Laurabelle will be 98-years-old this October.  She walks without a cane or walker and lives in a condo in downtown Bellevue.   She said her doctor would not be surprised if she made it past 100 years old!  She says it has been an interesting life.  Her relatives came to the United States before we started keeping immigration records and fought in both the American Revolution and the Civil War.  Laurabelle moved here in 1945 because her husband grew up in the Pacific Northwest, and after WWII wanted to finish his education at the UW.  Laurabelle worked for the telephone company for 42 years.  Back then it was called Pacific Tel and Tel; it is now Century Link.

Her husband passed in 1994, and Laurabelle has been on her own ever since.  Like many other older adults, she takes pleasure in living independently and not burdening family members for transportation.  She loves to play bridge and until recently lunched with all of her old friends from the telephone company.  She drove herself up until a few years ago, but decided it was time to give it up when she lost her depth perception in one eye.  A long time friend and former volunteer driver told her about Senior Services’ Volunteer Transportation Program. 

We have now been assisting Laurabelle to her medical appointments for the last three years and she says, “This program has saved my life.” Laurabelle credits her ability to stay in her own home to Volunteer Transportation.  “If it was not for this program and seeing my doctors, I would probably be in a retirement center.  I could not survive in my own home without these volunteers.”  She says she will continue to utilize our program even after she turns 100. 
Friday, July 12, 2013

Why Drive?

We recently posed the following question to our Des Moines Hyde Shuttle volunteer drivers: What is the best thing about driving the Hyde Shuttle?   
Here are their responses:
  • Alan M. –  “Driving is a great thing!  Some of the most fun is just taking a client to visit a friend or go to the waterfront for the afternoon.”
  • Tom M. –  "I so enjoy interacting with the seniors and their past experiences.  They are so thankful and show much appreciation for the Senior Services being provided to them.”
  • Scott E. –  “I enjoy the feeling of be able to help those who need help. I enjoy the driving and connecting with our riders.”
  • Tom E. –  
    • “I enjoy getting to know some of the elderly and hearing their stories of life.”
    • “I feel more appreciation for the little we do to make their lives easier than I ever did in all my years of work.”
  • John M. –  “It makes me feel like I am making a difference and it gives me something to do with my time.”
  • Jerry M. –
    • “Driving for me is an obligation of my civic duty to help others who may not be able to help themselves.”
    • “I enjoy the time, but I feel a strong responsibility as an able bodied adult to volunteer as long as I can.”
  • Bonnie T. -  
    • “I like hearing stories the seniors share from their past."
    • "I like that our riders are so polite and appreciative of our service.”
Although each volunteer has a different take on his/her role, they all demonstrate the same passion and compassion that make our program so special.   It is clear that we provide more than just transportation—for both our clients and volunteers.
Friday, July 5, 2013

Practicing Patience

Volunteer drivers often report a long laundry list of what they have gained from serving with our program: companionship, humility, a deeper understanding of the aging process, a newfound knowledge of local medical facilities, hope, joy, and PATIENCE!  Patience is a quality that is not innate in most of us.  As Eknath Easwarn writes, “Patience can't be acquired overnight. It is just like building up a muscle.”

Volunteer driving is great “conditioning” for our patience muscles.   Our clients move slowly—sometimes painstakingly slowly.  We often have to repeat ourselves multiple times, as clients may not hear or understand what we’ve already said.  Appointments can take longer than expected.  We often feel like we’re waiting and waiting and waiting.

But, as we learn to slow things down a few notches, we transform from impatient, irritated, over-stimulated modern adults to icons of mindfulness, serenity, and fortitude.  Fulton Sheen reminds us that “patience is power.”

So, as we inch along and feel as though the world is on “pause” (or “repeat”) with the senior clients of our program, let us remember that this is not a burden.  Rather, it is a gift!  Just like successful athletes, we are training for the important challenges of life.
Friday, June 28, 2013

Full Circle: The Client/Driver Cycle

Many of us describe the act of volunteering as a way of “giving back” to our community.  Helping others reminds us of the idea that we’re “all in this together,” and that we are all a part of a larger web of interdependence.  Within this integrated framework, at times, we are the ones reaching out to help others; at other times, we are the ones reaching out for help in moments of vulnerability.

Several members of our Volunteer Transportation community are evidence of this fact.  There are drivers who have become clients and clients who have become drivers within our team.  Their role reversals have helped them to gain a greater understanding of our program from multiple perspectives.

Georgette C. was once a volunteer driver and is now a regular client.  She says, “I have been on both sides of the program… When I was a driver, I could see how appreciative the riders were.  They were always so grateful, and they made me want to be there.   And now I appreciate all of my volunteer drivers!  I need the program so badly now.  I adore the program.  I enjoyed driving, and now I enjoy being a rider.” 

Georgette reports that she was not surprised when she eventually had to give up volunteering to become a client herself.  She explains, “I was so sorry I couldn’t keep up driving anymore, but I always knew I would become a rider.  I felt as though I were ‘paying’ as a driver, yet I would be ‘collecting’ later down the road.” 

Peter O. recently made the opposite switch.  He explains, “I required a colonoscopy and needed a ride to Bellevue last March.  My driver was a very pleasant young woman, who called ahead, arrived on time, and waited while I had the procedure.  I was impressed!”  He was so impressed that he “felt it was time to pay back” and soon submitted an online application to become a volunteer driver.  He has given many rides thus far and says, “Each of them has been a positive experience.”

Pat P. has a similar story and notes, “I originally used VT after a bilateral knee replacement.  I needed help in getting to my appointments as I live alone and family were busy with their careers and personal activities, so this was definitely a godsend.  … I’ve now been a volunteer driver for 7 years and love most of my drives.  I meet incredible people...”

Some call it karma; others call it “paying it forward” or “paying it back;” others call it a civic duty.  Whatever we choose to call this phenomenon, it is clear that we all participate in becoming mutually indebted to one another-- whether as a client or as a driver (or both).  We all work together for the common good.

Friday, June 21, 2013

An Ode to Hyde Shuttles

In February, we published a cheesy poem honoring our Volunteer Transportation drivers.  We feel that it is now time to do the same for the amazing volunteers and staff of the Hyde Shuttle program.

Here is our "Ode to Hyde Shuttles" (from a client perspective):

I was unable to get out and about on my own,
and I grew tired and bored at home all alone.
I wistfully dreamed of a way to break free
from the same four walls constantly surrounding me.

I was then informed of a shuttle called Hyde
that I could use if I ever needed a ride.
The van would pick me up at my home
and take me anywhere I wanted to go.

Registration was just a phone call away,
so I called to get started the very next day.
It was so easy to sign-up it was hard to believe;
I felt like there wasn’t anything I couldn’t achieve!

The shuttle came to pick me up at my front door,
and, just like that, I had a whole new world to explore.
I was able to go to the Senior Center, doctor’s, and store—
as well as the beauty parlor, a friend’s home, library, and more.

I felt very alive, empowered, and carefree;
there was so much more to do than just watch TV!
I’m no longer painfully limited in what I can do;
there are many new hobbies and activities to pursue.

The drivers are all courteous and as nice as can be;
they really strive to take good care of me.
They gingerly help me get into the van with care
and don’t mind that I need to stay in my wheelchair.

It’s hard to know how to effectively convey
all of the gratitude and positive things I want to say,
but I hope that ending with this statement will do:
Hyde Shuttle team, I truly appreciate you!
Friday, June 14, 2013

Thank You Card

 We are fortunate enough to receive many thoughtful, heartfelt, hand-written messages from clients and family members who have benefited from our services, and we'd like to share one of them with you for this week's post.  It reads:

To Jacob and all the volunteer drivers,

Thank you all so much for providing my mother rides to her clinic in downtown Seattle the last couple of weeks.  She so enjoyed meeting the drivers that volunteered to drive her to her daily appointments, the kindness of each person, and their promptness to get her there on time.  We appreciate your service.

Thanks again for everything! :)

Carol & Louanne


We are glad to have helped Louanne with her treatment and agree that we have the kindest, promptest volunteers around!!


Friday, June 7, 2013

Hyde Shuttle Story: Party Time


Brenda A., Hyde Shuttle Coordinator, shared the following fun experience with us:
"Geraldine’s daughter called the Hyde Shuttle client line and asked us to schedule her mother to come for lunch at the River Rock restaurant. I knew the rider and knew that she didn’t go to that restaurant , so I wanted to clarify that she wasn’t going to the Senior Center…  I then learned that the daughter was throwing her a surprise 99th birthday party!!  She had invited her past neighbors and coworkers from the community, including many Rotarians and other nonprofit friends with whom she’d worked.  Geraldine uses a wheelchair and rides on our shuttle because she can comfortably travel without having to transfer in and out of the car…PLUS…her daughter was trying to keep this all secret!  I was able to accommodate the request and hope that they had a memorable and enjoyable celebration.”
Friday, May 31, 2013

Volunteer Story: Getting Hitched

Dennis B., a volunteer driver, shared the following story with us:
 
“Yesterday, I took Bill H. to Magnolia.  He lived up there for years, and as it was a nice day, after the appointment we went to the bluff and looked out at the water for a while.  He told me about his father who was a ferry boat captain in the old days.  As we were getting ready to go, he told me that he had to get back to see his fiancée!  Bill is 91-years-old and uses a walker and is not what I would call really mobile...and here he is getting married!! He said that she and he were sweethearts 72 years ago.  He has been through 2 wives, and she 1 or 2 husbands. They now live 2 doors apart at The Merrill Gardens and are planning on getting married.  I guess it’s not over until they nail down the lid, huh?”
Friday, May 24, 2013

Volunteer Transportation Client Spotlight: Helen H.

ONE OF A KIND: Volunteer Transportation Client Brings Life to Rides

It’s easy to locate 92-year-old Helen H’s home amongst the sea of doors in her apartment complex.   There is a sign taped to the front of it that reads, “I’ve gone to look for myself.  If I should return before I get back, keep me here!”   Thus, visitors already have smiles on their faces before they’ve even greeted her.

And then Helen ensures that those smiles do not disappear!   She is full of entertaining stories and unique perspectives.  She has a great sense of humor, an active mind, and personality galore!  It is clear that, like her quirky door display, Helen stands out.  She says, “I’ve lived a hell of a life!  We all have.  You don’t get to be over 90-years-old without having a variety of experiences.” 
 
Although Helen stresses the importance of being able to laugh at life, she is able to reflect on other more serious topics as well.  She loves history (and is a member of a Historical Society) and has traveled a great deal.  She is curious and knowledgeable.  

These wide-ranging qualities make spending time with Helen a rare treat, and many Volunteer Transportation drivers have had the privilege of getting to know her.  She registered for the program in 2001 and has been a regular client ever since.   She has monthly appointments to ophthalmologists for treatment of macular degeneration and has met many “neat” volunteers throughout the years.

She says, “Every single one of them is interesting—if you want to sit and listen and ask.”  She knows many details of their life histories, and she has a great deal of respect for these drivers.  She jokes, “They all deserve stars in their crowns for putting up with cranky old ladies and men!”  On a more serious note, she adds, “They give their time and make an effort.  Frankly, I can’t push it hard enough.”

Helen reminds us of a very important life lesson: NEVER STOP LAUGHING OR LEARNING.  We are honored to have “found” her as a client in Volunteer Transportation.
Friday, May 17, 2013

All in the "Family"

We here at the Transportation Program are a part of the big, happy extended family of Senior Services-- the most comprehensive non-profit agency serving older adults and their loved ones in Washington State.  Together with our fellow Senior Services "brothers and sisters," we work to "promote the emotional, social, and physical well-being of older adults."  This includes many worthwhile services that inform, protect, support, and advocate; promote health and strength; enable seniors to remain independent and safe at home; and promote relationships and meaningful engagement in the community.  Collectively, we aspire to empower older people from diverse backgrounds to choose and develop joyful, healthful, and purposeful lives.

I'd like to dedicate this post to helping you get better acquainted with a few of our Senior Services "siblings": Meals on Wheels, Water Conservation, and Minor Home Repair.  Each of these programs is equally valuable in ensuring the independence and safety of the seniors we serve.

Meals on Wheels delivers nutritious and delicious frozen meals to thousands of homes throughout King County each week.  The following video (produced by the City of Auburn) portrays the heart and soul of what it's all about:



For more information about Meals on Wheels in King County, you can call the program at (206)448-5767.

Senior Services also strives to make lives easier through its Housing and Home Repair programs.  Leonard Luna, Minor Home Repair Field and Operations Coordinator, created the following PowerPoint presentations* to better illustrate the services offered within this Senior Services department (*minor formatting challenges):

 


 
You can call  206-448-5751 to find out more about the inner-workings of Water Conservation or Minor Home Repair.

It's very reassuring to know that we have so many great partners in providing older adults in King County with the resources they need!  We will continue to profile other Senior Services "relatives" as we journey onward in our quest to better support our beloved community.

About Me

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“Behind the Wheel” offers stories, reflections, news and updates about Sound Generations’ (formerly Senior Services') Transportation Program. Throughout King County, our inspiring volunteers provide needed mobility to local seniors, supporting them in their efforts to remain independent, healthy, and happy. Please drop by to read more about the unique experiences of our volunteers, clients and staff!
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